State News

Grand Rapids Police Department no stranger to racism allegations

April 22, 2022, 9:27 AM

The strained relationship between Grand Rapids police and the city's Black community has been in the spotlight since the killing of Patrick Lyoya.

Michigan's civil rights department this week said it requested the U.S. justice department investigate potential bias by the department.

The Detroit News details some recent allegations against the force in a story tracing the problems to civil unrest of 1967:

Among the recent incidents that have caused tension between Grand Rapids police and its citizens:

  • Grand Rapids officials in 2019 agreed to pay a $125,000 lawsuit settlement to 24-year-old Bronquel Brown, who was seen on bodycam video repeatedly being punched by a Grand Rapids police officer during an arrest.
  • On Nov. 21, 2018, Grand Rapids police arrested Jilmar Ramos-Gomez after he allegedly trespassed and set a small fire at a hospital. After police wrongfully turned him over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, the Marine veteran sued the city. The suit was settled in 2019 for $190,000.
  • While investigating a December 2017 stabbing Grand Rapids officers went into the wrong home and handcuffed an 11-year-old Black girl who was heard on the officer's body-worn camera screaming as she was taken into custody. T
  • Then-Police Chief David Rahinsky said the incident showed officers needed more training.
  • Some citizens expressed outrage in 2017 after an officer's body-worn camera showed him handcuffing five Black teens who were headed home from playing basketball.  The officer later determined they'd done nothing wrong and turned the teens over to their parents.

In May 2019, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights announced an investigation into 28 individual complaints against the Grand Rapids Police Department." Those complaints are also included in a broader investigation into systemic bias in the policies and procedures of the GRPD," a 2020 state press release said. The investigation is ongoing.

Bridge Detroit highlights additional problems, including a 2017 traffic study that showed Black motorists twice as likely to be pulled over as white motorists, though just 14 percent of Grand Rapids residents at the time were Black.

Read more:  The Detroit News

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